It took Andrew Nicholson 37 tries to win Badminton, but today he achieved his goal riding the 17-year old Nereo, defeating defending Badminton champ Michael Jung aboard La Biosthetique Sam FBW. This was Nicholson’s win is his biggest since coming back from neck surgery following a fall in 2015 which nearly paralyzed him.
Nicholson rode in his first Badminton in 1984. He’s been second once (2004) and third (2013). In 2013, he and Nero were in the lead after XC but lost in show jumping.
Sitting in third place, Nicholson put pressure on Ingrid Klimke and Michael Jung by jumping clear with only 1 time fault. This was quite a feat for Nereo, who is not known for his show jumping prowess.He hasn’t jumped clear in show jumping at the four star level since 2014. But for Nicholson, who has ridden Nereo for 13 years, winning on this horse must be extra special.
Michael Jung and “Roxie” came into the show jumping ring with one rail in hand. Turned out they needed it when they pulled a rail in the middle element of the triple combination, but they still pulled it off, becoming the first rider/horse combination to win Rolex in three consecutive years, finishing with a final score of 42.7. Kim Severson and Windsome Adante also won the event three times but not consecutively. Bruce Davidson also won Rolex three times on Doctor Peaches back when it was a CCI3*.
Below is Jung’s cross country round. It was not quite as smooth as we’ve all come to expect from him, but to watch Michael Jung ride on a “bad day” is humbling.
In second place was Maxime Livio and Qalao des Mers, who finished on their dressage score on 44.6. This is one of the few teams that have beaten Jung and Rocana — edging them out last fall at Pau.
One of the more emotional
Zara Tindall on High Kingdom also finished on her dressage score of 46.6, putting her in a close third. Tindall was very pleased she got to ride this year. Two years ago she had to withdraw High Kingdom when he had a stable accident before dressage.
One of the emotional highlights of Rolex was the return of Phillip Dutton and Mr. Mendicott, who finished fourth, earning Dutton the 2017 USEF CCI4* National Champion as the highest placed American rider. Mr. Mendicott, an 18 year old Irish Sport Horse, last ran Rolex in 2014 where he aggravated an old tendon injury. After 10 months of rehab and two years off, Mr. Mendicott ran his final 4* in Kentucky!
After two days of dressage, Clark Montgomery on Loughan is firmly in the lead with an impressive 33.6%.
Michel Jung and FischerRocana sits in second place with 37.1%.
Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border are in third place with 41.0%.
Perhaps stealing the show was the retirement ride by Allison Springer and Arthur.
Sprenger chose to retire the 18 year old Irish Sport Horse gelding at what would have been his eighth start at Rolex. Arthur was recently diagnosed with aortic regurgitation — leakage from the aortic valve, which is a common degenerative problem in older horses.
“Arthur is my one of my oldest friends. He and I have traveled the
world together, and we have had many moments of triumph and some moments of heartbreak, but in every moment, he has been my partner and I have always been incredibly proud to get to ride him,” Allison said.
I will admit that I didn’t do it. I do ride without stirrups on occasion, but not w ith the dedication I had when I was younger and my trainer made me do it!
But if you want to see why it’s important to be able to ride without stirrups, watch Mark Todd ride more than half of the Badminton Course in 1995 with just one stirrup (I can’t imagine how off balance he must have felt).
Todd says that as he rode towards the lake on Bertie Blunt, “I almost felt like bursting out laughing at the thought of galloping down to one of the most difficult fences in the world with only one stirrup.”
It is oh-so-easy to get ahead of your horse when you are learning to jump. And then you are just one step away from jumping the fence without your horse. I suspect we’ve all been there, lying on the ground on one side of a fence while your horse stands on the other side and looks at you questioningly. It’s a surprisingly hard problem to fix because, as Denny points out, your natural tendency is to lean forward.
Many years ago when I was riding at an event at Pleasant Hollow (anyone out there remember that lovely venue?) I managed to jump the first fence of the course without my horse. Of course, my trainer got that fall on video and I had the pleasure of watching it over and over again, analyzing my fall in slow motion! Still, although I could see what went wrong, it was harder to fix it.
My trainer had an ingenious solution: She had me ride another student’s horse. One that was a fabulous jumper except, he would not leave the ground if you got ahead of him. It made him a great teacher!
Since then, I’ve also learned the “trick” of using a neck strap. Many of the trainers whom I’ve ridden with in the past few years are proponents and I wish I’d figured it out sooner. Looping a finger through the strap and remembering to lean back a bit keeps me more centered and stable. I’ve also learned that it’s sometimes better to get a wee bit behind (especially if you are holding onto that neck strap) than to get ahead.
Christopher Burton went into stadium jumping on Sunday with four rails in hand. And he needed every one of them! Very impressive of him to stay in the lead since dressage.
“I tried to keep it interesting for everyone by getting as close as I could! I don’t know if I’ll ever win a four star in such a way ever again. He warmed up ok, he’s basically a careful show jumper and I expected him to go well but in the end he got a bit tired and had a few down.”
It was hard to ride a clean round — probably a combination of horses tired from the hard cross country day and the wet footing. Course designer Richard Jeffery said they wheeled the course generously on Sunday morning to make the turns a bit less challenging, and they also added three seconds to the optimum time after the first few horses.
Andrew Nicholson was second on Nereo, moving up a spot after Tim Price brought down three rails. In an interview on Burghley TV, Nicholson talked about how he is still recovering from last year’s accident. “You don’t know how special this is,” he said. He certainly looked stiff as he finished his cross country ride.
Third and fourth place went to Jonelle Price and Tim Price (is the first time a married couple finished in third and fourth?).
And just because it’s hard to get enough of Burghley XC and show jumping, below is some helmet cam footage.
After cross-country day at Burghley, where the heavy rain made for tough going in the afternoon, Christopher Burton and Nobilis still sit in the lead. They are followed by Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy in second and Andrew Nicholson and Nereo in third.
There were just 28 clear rounds and 40 completions from 68 starters today – and none finished inside the 11min11sec optimum time. The fastest time came from Jonelle Price and Classic Moet who were just four seconds over.
The course was very interesting because all of the options that were available to riders. Captain Mark Phillips designed it so that there were longer, safer routes for many of the fences; even after a rider jumped the first part of a combination, there was often an alternative way round. Many riders took advantage of those options, even on the fly.
I’m still working my way through the on-demand version of the coverage and once again thanking Burghley.Tv for making it all available.
The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials are underway and if you didn’t get enough equestrian coverage during the Olympics, this should be a great treat. Burghley always does a great job of making the coverage accessible — and free.
After dressage, New Zealand and Australia dominated the standings, with Bettina Hoy (2nd) and Oliver Towend (5th) breaking the trend.
Andrew Nicholson is back in fine form after recovering from a broken neck last year.
Cross country starts at 11:15am GB time (6:15am US eastern) and the last horse is due on course at 3:45 pm (10:45am US eastern) but you will able to watch on demand on Burghley.tv. It being the UK, it is supposed to rain tomorrow so fingers crossed that the footing stays good.